Allensworth v. Colvin: SSDI Hearings and Appeals

Allensworth v. Colvin, a federal disability appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, involved a claimant who was appealing denial of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits application.

It should be noted that the United States Seventh Circuit often tends to favor claimants more so than other circuits, and this is especially true of Judge Posner.  In this case, Posner not only heard the case but also drafted the opinion for the court.

952313_gavelClaimant asserted that his back began to hurt in 2008.  The pain got worse over time and spread to his legs.  When he went to his doctor, tests were done, and it was determined the main cause of his problem was a herniated disk, but he also had severe arthritis.  He received treatment for these medical conditions in 2010.

However, these were not the only issues that caused him to become disabled.  Claimant was also suffering from a condition known as hypersomnia.  Hypersomnia means that a patient will have excessive sleepiness during the daytime.  It is typically caused by obstructive sleep apnea.  The condition sounds similar to narcolepsy, but it is not random like that condition, and is actually tied to sleep deprivation.

He went to another doctor for leg pain, and it was determined that he suffered from various nervous system disorders including fibromyalgia, radiculopathy, and related disorders of the spine.  He had severe impairments in his mobility, which were diagnosed when the doctors gave him a test known as the straight leg raise.  One doctor noted that his activity was limited to doing light chores around the house and going on errands with the assistance of his wife.

Claimant also cited his obesity as contributing to his disability. The administrative law judge (ALJ) found that, while this condition did contribute to his ability to get around and possibly to his sleep apnea, it is did not significantly affect his right to engage in substantial gainful activity (work).

At the hearing, ALJ found that opinions of the various doctors were not supported by the evidence in this matter and dismissed much of their findings.  Specially, he found them to be wrong on claims as a results of their respective notes on four out of 17 separate visits.  One of the reasons our Boston disability attorneys will challenge findings such as these is because, in order to dismiss the findings of a treating physician, an ALJ must show a valid evidentiary basis for taking what should be an extreme step.

Posner declined to find there was sufficient evidence on the record to dismiss the opinions of multiple doctors who had seen claimant on many separate occasions.  As a result of this clear abuse of discretion, the court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.  However, unlike in most cases where the court requires the ALJ to make the same finding, if such a finding could be supported by the evidence, in this case, Posner went to so far as to claim it appears claimant is unable to work.

If you are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Allensworth v. Colvin, February 25, 2016, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

More Blog Entries:
Hanson v. Colvin: A Critical Look by a Court of Appeals on a Denial of Benefits, August 14, 2014, Boston Disability Lawyers Blog.

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